Wetlands at Warfield Bog and Hemlock Butte

It’s been another great year for beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax). It’s blooming en masse here in the upper wetland at Hemlock Butte. Diamond Peak seems to be just a stone’s throw away.

On Friday, August 3, Molly Juillerat and I will be leading a field trip to Warfield Bog and Hemlock Butte wetlands east of Oakridge (for more info or to sign up, call the Middle Fork Ranger Station at 541-782-2283). To make sure the roads are okay and to see what might be blooming, I went for a scouting trip on Sunday (July 21). On the drive up, I was very pleased to score some ripe seeds of silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons), one of my favorite rock plants for its gorgeous silvery foliage. Lupines are very hard to collect seed from on the fly. Their seed pods explode almost as soon as they are ripe, vaulting the seeds away from the plant. The best way to collect is to put some sort of a bag over the ripening pods to catch the seeds. This is great for a monitored site, but for a random stop along the road, I just had to get lucky. Many of the pods had released their seeds and were all coiled up. Some pods were starting to turn brown but hadn’t opened up yet. I lazily threw them on the seat of the car, planning to put them in a seed envelope later. When I returned to the car to eat lunch after my first foray at Warfield Bog, they had exploded from the heat in the car, I suppose, and had scattered seeds all over the place. A bit of a mess, perhaps, but more seeds than I’ve ever managed to get before, so I was happy. My most recent plant in the garden died after the March snowstorm this spring, so I need to get some more started.

Butterflies don’t seem to mind crowds. Here several Boisduval’s blues and an Anna’s blue seem to have found an extra special spot in the mud.

Most of the leaves on grass of Parnassus are basal. But rather oddly, a single stemless leaf can be found partway up the flowering stem. When the buds first form, they are tucked away in this leaf. As they develop, they grow well beyond the leaf. It seems to me the stem leaf may serve to protect and warm the bud early in the season.

For that first exploration at Warfield Bog, I decided to check out a short old road across from the lake. It ends quickly at a large pile of dirt and rocks. Three campfire rings and some trash showed that this is a popular area, most likely for hunters in the fall. Surprisingly, this unassuming spot actually had quite a bit of botanical interest. A number of rock plants were happily colonizing this man-made scree, including hot rock penstemon (P. deustus), bluefield gilia (G. capitata), common cryptantha (C. intermedia), and snapdragon skullcap (Scutellaria antirrhinoides), all additions to my plant list. There was also some tall California harebell (Campanula prenanthoides) that should be in bloom by the time of our official trip. On the north side of the abandoned road is some wetland downstream of the lake. A lot of this is overgrown, but there are some accessible places with blooming white and slender bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata and stricta) and some early scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata). I found a lone clump of Casacade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) in bud. There is quite a bit of it in the wetland at the top of the slope, but I hadn’t seen it down near the bog before. I was also pleased to find a really large patch—or perhaps just one very large plant—of swamp currant (Ribes triste) trailing along a fallen log on the west side of the road. All the other spots were east of the road. There is probably even more of this rare shrub that I haven’t stumbled upon yet. I also located and marked some one-flowered gentian (Gentianopsis simplex), which should be in bloom in a couple of weeks.

Lots of damp ground from drying up pools of water draw many butterflies, including several species of blues, a crescent, and a copper.

Back by the road around the lake, there were several wet areas where the water flows across the road in places and some drying pools at the edge of the wetland. The moist areas on the nearby ground were the scene of congregating butterflies. The most abundant butterflies were Boisduval’s blues, but I also noted greenish, Anna’s, and tailed blues, Hoffman’s and variable checkerspots, field crescents, duskywings, meadow fritillaries, 2 Lorquin’s admirals, an orange sulphur, an Edith’s copper, and a purplish or lilac-bordered copper. Driving along the main road toward Hemlock Butte, I also saw lots of Clodius parnassians and some larger fritillaries. There were also many dragonflies and damselflies, several snakes, and a frog. By the end of the day, I’d seen three frogs (grown ones) and many tadpoles. I hope there will still be this much wildlife on August 3rd.

The flowers of bronze bells (Anticlea occidentalis) are quite elegant but are easy to miss.

While stopped along the main road high above the wetlands, I met two nice gentlemen out looking for wildflowers. I was quite surprised that they recognized me from this website. Apparently they are avid readers of my blog! It is really gratifying to know my reports are being used to help people find new sites to explore for wildflowers. So since I know you’ll read this, thanks Barry and Rick for making my day! Farther along the road, there were a great many skyrockets (Ipomopsis aggregata) and pink owl-clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus). There were also a lot of small rocks that had fallen onto the road—one of the unfortunate consequences of rocky roadcuts that are so good for flowers—so I made a lot of quick stops to clear the ones that were too big for a smaller car to run over. I stopped briefly at the bottom of the meadow where Sabine and I had seen so many bronze bells (Anticlea [Stenanthium] occidentalis) last year (see Wonderful Wildlife and More at Warfield Bog). There were a great many of the lovely deep red flowers in bloom. There were also many puddling butterflies where the seep spilled out onto the road. It’s a shame there is no good place to pull over, so one can spend a while at this pretty spot.

A huge swath of hairy arnica (Arnica mollis) is coming into bloom in the lower wetland.

Subalpine spiraea (S. splendens) coming into bloom in the upper wetland.

I hadn’t left myself much time for Hemlock Butte, but I enjoyed the late afternoon sun glinting off the remaining snow on Diamond Peak. I had barely been able to see it below all the clouds on my last trip there (see Colorful Wet Meadows at Hemlock Butte). The beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) was putting on a great show. The truly splendid subalpine spiraea (Spiraea splendens) was coming into bloom, its bright pink taking over for the now fading Jeffrey’s shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). The elephanthead (Pedicularis groenlandica) was also fading but there were still some fairly fresh flower heads here and there. One of the plants I hope to show people on the field trip is the rare swamp onion (Allium validum). It is very tall and showy with bright pink flowers. It was just in bud, so we should have good luck with that one. Poking around looking for little hidden plants, I found a western yellowcress (Rorippa curvisiliqua), a plant that blooms in drying out muddy areas. Once I spotted that, some tiny pearlworts (Sagina sp.) appeared. They like exactly the same habitat. I believe this is Sagina saginoides (another silly, redundant botanical name), but they’re so tiny, I’m having a hard time pinning them down. Before heading home, I decided to check out the wetland at the bottom of the slope, a short half mile down the road. I remember seeing some arnica there years ago, and was very happy to see it coming into bloom across much of the meadow near the road. I tried to cross over the creek to the wetter meadow on the other side and managed to sink into some boot-sucking mud. Time to call it a day! We’ll skip that on our field trip, for sure, but hopefully we’ll see plenty of interesting late bloomers. Join us if you can!

 

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